Words by James McNeice // Photos by Sarah Chavdaroska
If there was one phrase that was the unprecedented focus of the weekend it was “Oh my gosh, its so cold!’
As a thrifty boutique festival that’s soon to put Bambra Bowl on the map, By the Meadow returned for its sixth year running. Despite the rogue temperamental weather, its few hundred-odd partygoers still ventured out with raincoats, scarves and beanies to battle a cocktail of rain, sun, rain, icy wind, rain, hail, and some more rain. I knew little else about what to expect besides a dedicated crowd of reoccurring punters and an emu that frequented the perimeter of the grounds, namely an entertaining opportunity for people watching.
As I rocked up after dark still munching on lukewarm maccas (the Friday evening road trip staple), everything was breezy – no lines (not even at the toilets!), easy to follow instructions and a straight forward camping area. But in the few short minutes it took for me to pitch my pop-up tent, Mother Nature unleashed a preview of the icy wind and continuous rain that would unfortunately plague By the Meadow for pretty much its entirety.
As the thought sunk in that the only choice was to go hard or go home, I thought “fuck it,” grabbed a beer and headed to the where the action was. As I shivered my way down to the festival’s one and only stage, I could thankfully feel a sense of community flourishing – we were all in this together.
My first encounter was Melbourne based urban music guru Thando, who was getting things heated with her finger clicking soulful bops. In the midst of her set it became instantly apparent that standing deep inside the crowd was going to be the best source of warmth for the night. Next up, murmurmur‘s dreamy psychedelia shone like a sonic daydream of light, playing a tight set of articulately produced tracks. Yet the party didn’t truly start until The Vasco Era’s cheery opening song, an ode to the Elvis Presley classic ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love‘. The cover spawned a wholesome and hearty sing-along frenzy before Vocalist Syd O’Neil abruptly shifted gears, morphing the set into their noisy post-hardcore brand of mosh pit ready punk that had people shaking their bums and banging their heads. For someone who was not familiar with this act, it was a golden shocker to see this incredibly fun and joyous transition at the beginning of their set. It was also huge to see half of the festival suddenly going nuts – whether this was in the name of rock’n’roll or an exciting excuse to stay warm.
Bringing the stage to a close at a sensible 12.20am was Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange whose aesthetic of psychedelic visuals and deep-house-played-live was not only mesmerising but the most thought inducing set I have seen in a long while. There were many times I would fall into a deep hypnotic state, bopping my head and staring in a haze at the quartet – loving every moment of the music. It was the soundtrack for a million epiphanies at once, and just like that, night #1 had come to a close.
From that point forward, there were three options left – head back to your campsite to be rained on, the movie theatre showing back to back movies with sound, or join the renegade UE Boom party which emerged in a nearby shelter dome. Thanks to hearing a drunkenly sung version of Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ wailing in the distance we politely opted for the latter. As we joined in on the sing-a-long, our mystery DJ’s role of selecting the next banger became one of immense pressure. The party’s population had just about tripled before the song had even finished. Thankfully they delivered, and after a few more tunes we decided to be sensible and hit the hay at the reasonable time of 2am.
Saturday morning kicked off with the inviting sound of light rain pattering on the tent top. Thank god, we had woken up dry. One coffee and a bowl of poorly executed Sultana Bran later, we found ourselves doing the morning admin by the car. As our Marie Kondo inspired campsite consisted of two fold-out chairs and nothing else, it quickly became our prime chill out zone, heater and all, where many front-seat tinnies were sunk in-between sets.
We got our shit together right in time to catch Hobson’s Bay Coast Guard in the early afternoon. Miraculously, the rain had fittingly cleared, and out came the most euphoric ray of sun that had ever hit my skin, perfect for the band’s progressive jam-sesh brand of indie surf rock. They kicked off the set with their ten-minute self titled track, which worked seamlessly alongside a unique harmonising blend of yell-y yet pop vocals that rode the sun-kissed twangy rhythms like a wave. If you haven’t had a chance to see these guys (whose debut album dropped literally a few days before the festival) then tack it on your to-do list. Hopefully next time we can see them as the Ronald McDonald quartet they intended to play as.
Brisbane’s Clea unluckily battled the relentless return of grim weather, particularly coming head to head with a seemingly never-ending gust of icy wind. Yet she still managed to lay down her lax chilled-out indie pop with a hint of mild psych. Her set was a haze of bliss, her vocals wistfully flowing through the nearby hills, like a solid glass of mulled wine by the indoor wood fire.
As the fierce rains reached their climax throughout the late arvo, watching the stage from the Marquee bar almost became a necessity, particularly for the people like myself who foolishly forgot to pack thermals. I sunk an espresso martini and kicked back to The Goon Sax, a band from Brisbane who could easily pretend to be from Brunswick and nobody would question them. Their fuzzy classically Brisbane indie rock was a perfect fit for that soon-to-be-dark evening piss-up vibe.
Another cocktail later and the marquee bar became a hideout for what felt like half the festival, and then the Sunset act began. This makeshift busking-like set had the whole tent at its capacity– whether this was initially planned for the main stage or not is a question that has gone unanswered. The band played an ode to Irish folk with some woodwind thrown in, reminiscent of something in between a cheery Christmas Day party in the trenches during the war and your cool Uncle’s 40th birthday party. It was this particular set that encapsulated what By the Meadow seemed to be aiming for – a communal, no shits given festival where you come across the same faces again and again as one big festival family.
As the rain had settled in for the night, Western Sydney’s Lauren brought a pumped-up set full of electro hip-hop bangers, at one point announcing that “this one is for the people who wanna fuuuck!” As a stark correlation, The Seven Ups followed, playing a largely instrumental set of groovy funk that commanded festival goers to dance. Headline act The Murlocs hit the stage in the midst of the fog which brought people out from under the covers to get up close and personal for their lively thriving set, aided with enough energy to direct a workout routine and an abundance of harmonica solos. Frontman Ambrose Kenny-Smith ended each track with a signature yelp of ‘YOOO!’ to keep things amped up, and at one point indulge in a hands-in-the-air call and response of the Backstreet Boys classic ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)‘.
The night ended with subsequent trips between the stage and the movie theatre, where a screening of Die Hard drew in a surprisingly large number of people, as DJ Harvey Sutherland and Roza Terenzi pumped out thumping beats until the icy depths of rural 4am.
If you’re looking to make the move from other big league festivals then By the Meadow should be atop your list. The weekend felt like a once in a lifetime party your mate decided to sneakily throw on their farm while their parents were out of town. Rather than creating an atmosphere of competitive cliques that can easily be picked up in bigger festivals, By the Meadow felt always welcoming and never pretentious. People were there to see music; people were there to drink and dance and have a blast with their mates, and how these musicians managed to play dope sets in the freezing cold without their hands frosting over was a feat in itself. You’ll be sure to find me at next year’s festival, sporting a heavy rain jacket and new gumboots.
Photo by Daniel Ford
Synth-pop duo Pillow Pro‘s new single ‘Sex Appeal’ sounds like you’ve boarded a lux private jet with your lover and flown through a sea of pink clouds in a neon sky, drinking from a bottomless glass of expensive champagne -– the perfect daydream to indulge in as you’re lying on your bedroom floor.
This track is a perfect execution of the way vocalists/producers Christobel Elliott and Sophie Millis merge their vocal styles while sounding disarmingly distant from one another. Over a snapping beat and hazy soundscape, the two shift between reflective spoken word verses — a nod to the likes of Uffie — and sensual harmonies reminiscent of R’n’B artist Kelela.
Lyrically the duo bring sexual expression to the forefront, reclaiming their sexuality in a space where artistic integrity can be so easily dismissed due to the bias’ inherent in the music industry.
You can catch the track above, with the accompanying music video set to be dropped soon.
As Melbourne’s weather descends into bleaker winter temperatures, Girlatones‘ poppy single ‘You’re My Friend’ has arrived like a warm ray of sunshine. Backed with surfy riffs and soaring vocal harmonies, this track is a head bopping ode to friendship, all done in good honest humour. On first impression, the track teeters somewhere between the noise pop of The Breeders and Best Coast’s earlier work. The quirk here though is in vocalist Jesse Williams’ detached delivery. The heartwarming dedication of “You’re my friend and we’ll stay together until the end”, before the proposition “There is something I want you to understand/Could it be clearer?” portrays a strong element of self awareness.
The track shows a departure from the sound they explored on their debut EP Everybody’s Making Pop Music, exchanging acoustic garage jangle pop for more bubblegum-inspired surf pop.
Following on from the release of their debut EP, the quartet are currently in the midst of working on their self-produced first LP, which is set to reach your ears later in the year. For now, you can catch Girlatones’ brand of sunny indie pop at The Old Bar on the 14th of May for their single launch, with supports from Caroline No and 19th Century Strongmen (click through here for more details).
It was an exciting time to be in Footscray a couple of weeks ago, and it wasn’t just to see the Bulldogs win the flag in this year’s grand final. Taking over The Reverence Hotel was Sad Grrrls Fest, a festival to celebrate and create a safe space for local female and LGBTIQA+ artists. The kickass lineup displayed the talents from some of the most exciting Melbourne acts from our thriving local music scene. Taking place across two clash-free main stages, and an acoustic stage in the beer garden, the long overdue warm Spring weather made for a successful day with everybody in high spirits.
The daytime sets saw many emerging local acts, such as The Girl Fridas and Beloved Elk, display their gripping indie rock cuts to the beer and cider-sipping crowd. Slowing down the pace was the enchanting Denim Owl, whose dreamy guitar and folky sensibility was perfect for the sunny afternoon.
As daylight came to an end, the afternoon was polished off with three piece band Claws & Organs, whose drowning, wallowing brand of psychedelic infused grunge was nineties alt rock heaven. Fronted by vocalist and bassist Heather Thomas, the bands back and forth, apathetic chanting vocals embodied a slowed down cover of the Swingers‘ famous hit ‘Counting the Beat’ which they made entirely their own.
Electronic artist KT Spit took the front bar stage as evening approached, her punk influenced brand of electronica with playful, ethereal vocals meeting somewhere between Kathleen Hanna and Grimes. Playing to a mostly seated crowd allowed for an intimate performance, with her isolated dancer expanding the vulnerability of her music. The set also featured an a capalla sung with a vocoder reminiscent of the likes of Imogen Heap‘s ‘Hide and Seek‘.
Packing out the back room stage was Alex Lahey, who has had a big year, securing substantial airplay on Triple J with her track ‘You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me‘. Between her energetic bouncy guitar playing and relaxed vocals, Lahey charmed the crowd with little anecdotes of her experiences, recalling conversations she has had with her mother in times of need.
Simona Castricum took to the front bar stage with her dark eighties/early nineties inspired club tunes. A prolific member of the Melbourne queer music scene as a producer, vocalist and drummer, Simona’s performance was an essential reminder as to why events like Sad Grrrls Fest are still so important. Playing a dance-ready collection of tracks, you could really feel the emotional intensity of her set, with Simona herself brought to tears during her single ‘Still‘, a triumphant nod to the darker reverbed style of eighties synth pop.
Bringing it back to all things rock on the back room stage, punk rock act Miss Destiny’s dynamic tunes laid out a mix of political anecdotes and their signature energetic punk rock sound. Absent from the band was Harriet Stewart, who was out partying for her birthday. Yet the band remained unaffected, with their enormous stage persona and Harriet Hudson’s plentiful shredding guitar solos a highlight of the day.
Camp Cope played the back room stage with their emotional, relatable brand of indie rock. 2016 has been a big year for the band, solidifying their place in the Australian music scene and touring with sold out shows across the country. Vocalist Georgia Maq’s powerhouse vocals and charging guitar complimented the vulnerability and angst embedded in her lyrics. A highlight was their cover of the classic Yeah Yeah Yeahs song ‘Maps‘, which led the whole room erupting into a sing-along, truly encapsulating the communal spirit of the day.
As the night came to a close, the tunes become mellower, with Jess Ribeiro playing the last slot on the front bar stage. Her beautiful harmonies with her bass player made for a more indie-pop sound compared to heavier acts earlier in the day. She mirrored the soulful vocal style of the likes of Cat Power, which saw for an enjoyable and captivating watch. Polishing off the great tunes was Ribeiro and her band’s stage presence, effortlessly communicating with one another as if they were family.
Last on the bill was the always-idiosyncratic presence of Jaala, who have enjoyed widespread attention following the release of their debut record Hard Hold late last year. Coming off the relaxed vibes of Jess Ribero, Jaala fittingly brought the night to a close with their stuttering grooves and pulsating riffs, creating an emotional, disjointed performance like no other. Vocalist and guitarist Cosima Jaala’s anecdotes between songs were always enlightening and relevant, and felt like you were watching an authentic expression of her inner thoughts and feelings alongside the music.
Sad Grrrl Fest showcased some of the best talent from the ever expanding scene of female fronted and queer artists in Australia. An essential celebration and space for performers to express themselves without any limitations or fears is something truly special to watch and be a part of. In the past year, there has been a pivotal and important uprising within this music scene and it makes me truly excited to see which acts will feature next year, and for the acts who featured to continue thriving.
Singer-songwriter Andrew Samuel from Newtown, Sydney has sent us the premiere of his new track ‘I Still Feel Blue’ – set to be released on his new EP Hissing Bitterness out August 27th.
Driven by an acoustic guitar ‘I Still Feel Blue’ encapsulates the loneliness and isolation of the middle of nowhere. It’s the kind of tune that you would comfortably play under the stars in the middle of the Australian desert.
Samuel’s whispery, intimate vocals are warmly engaging, teetering somewhere between the warble of The National and the emotional drive of The Tallest Man on Earth. The beauty of Samuel’s brand of folk is that it does not beg for your attention, rather it enters your world quietly. ‘I Still Feel Blue’ stands among a crowd of other local folk music, yet it delicately prevails to be the most beautiful.
You can check out more of Andrew Samuel’s EP this Saturday upon its release, and see him live on his national tour starting August 25th in Brisbane.
|Aug 25th, 2016 – Brisbane @ The End|
|Aug 28th, 2016 – Sydney @ Petersham Bowls Club||Aug 29th, 2016 – Canberra @ The Front|
|Aug 30th, 2016 – Bendigo @ Billyroy’s Blues Bar||Sep 1st, 2016 – Melbourne @ Bar Open|
|Sep 4th, 2016 – Tasmania @ Brisbane Hotel|